Yelp Reviews “Not Recommended?” Here’s How to Unfilter Them

Are your Yelp reviews “not recommended?” That can hurt your rating. Here’s how to un-filter them, prevent that from happening again, and increase your rating.

Specifically, here’s what we’ll cover in this article:

Yelp uses an algorithm to filter out fake reviews. But sometimes it filters out genuine reviews. Here’s why real reviews might get filtered out:

  • The user hasn’t posted enough reviews.
  • The user hasn’t posted enough photos.
  • The user doesn’t have enough Yelp friends.
  • The user hasn’t filled out enough of their profile information.
  • The user has been inactive long enough to be considered a dead account.
  • The user only posts positive or negative reviews.
  • The review is too positive or negative.
  • The review is too short or vague.
  • The review isn’t considered useful, funny, or cool.
  • The review violates Yelp’s Content Guidelines.
  • Yelp doesn’t trust the IP address the review came from.
  • The review came as part of a big burst of reviews.

Unscrupulous people pay for bot accounts to post positive reviews for their businesses. Even worse, sometimes those people pay bots to post negative reviews of competing businesses.

Obviously, bot accounts and fake reviews (lies, by any other name) are a blight on any review platform. So Yelp made an algorithm to filter out spam reviews.

Unfortunately, Yelp’s filter isn’t perfect. Yes, it filters out fake reviews. But it also sometimes filters out genuine reviews. And when genuine 5-star reviews are filtered as Yelp reviews “not recommended,” it doesn’t count toward your business’ Yelp rating (boo!).

In fact, about 22% of all Yelp reviews are “not recommended” and another 7% of reviews are removed outright (see our Yelp fact sheet). That means Yelp hides or removes almost a third of all reviews. And unfortunately, Artificial Intelligence company Quantified Communications found that Yelp tends to filter out many authentic reviews and fails to filter many fake ones.

But how does Yelp’s filter determine which reviews to hide? Why are only certain Yelp reviews “not recommended?” First, it’s helpful to understand where fake reviews usually come from and recognize the common signs of fake reviews.

What Yelp watches out for: signs of bots & fake reviews

Most fake reviews are made by large armies of bot accounts. Bots are made quickly and cheaply with little to no profile information (that would take too much effort) and originate from the same IP address. Since they’re not real people, they don’t make Yelp friends, mark reviews as useful, or message other users.

Their fake reviews tend to be short, vague, generic, overly-positive toward whoever paid for them, and overly-negative toward competitors. Fake reviews can also consist of broken English, and copy-pasted text. When bots aren’t submitting fake reviews, they lay dormant doing nothing.

So Yelp trusts users with unique profile information, lots of Yelp friends, messages, and other types of social engagement. Yelp trusts users who are active and prolific in posting reviews—some positive, some negative—and photos (which are hard to fake).

Yelp prefers medium-length, reviews with specific information that’s considered cool, funny, or useful to fellow Yelpers. And Yelp prefers when the reviews are positive or negative but not too much.

Knowing that, here are all the reasons why a Yelp review might be “not recommended.”

The user hasn’t posted enough reviews

Yelp trusts users who are very active and post many reviews. Users who’ve posted too few reviews could be perceived as new bot accounts or old dead accounts.

The user hasn’t posted enough photos

Yelp trusts active users who are very prolific on Yelp. Yelp also trusts users who post photos because photos are much harder to fake.

The user doesn’t have enough Yelp friends

When a user has many Yelp friends, it helps validate that they’re a real human being (not just a bot) who has relationships with other human beings.

The user hasn’t filled out enough of their profile information

This includes missing a profile picture, description, and even a connection to Facebook. Filling these things in—especially the Facebook connection—helps Yelp know the user is a unique human and not a generic bot.

The user has been inactive long enough to be considered a dead account

Yelp trusts active users over accounts that stay dormant for long periods of time. If the user hasn’t used their Yelp account in a long time, they may find their Yelp reviews not recommended.

The user only posts reviews with the same sentiment

When all of a user’s reviews are either good or bad, no matter which business they’re reviewing, this implies it’s a bot account paid to give positive reviews to whoever paid for them or negative reviews to competitors. But this also filters out users who are just very positive (or negative) reviewers.

The review is too positive or negative

Fake reviews tend to be overly-positive toward the business that paid for them and overly-negative toward competitors. Unfortunately, that means super-happy and super-unhappy customers get their Yelp reviews not recommended too.

The review is too short or vague

Fake reviews tend to be short and generic, like “I loved it!” Unfortunately, that means even genuine reviews get filtered if they seem too short, vague, or unhelpful to readers.

The review isn’t considered useful, funny, or cool

If the review doesn’t get any engagement from any other users, that’s a sign it isn’t helpful to Yelpers, so Yelp filters it out.

The review violates Yelp’s Content Guidelines

Here’s Yelp’s Content Guidelines in a nutshell:

  • No inappropriate content, like hate speech or threats.
  • No conflicts of interest, things should be unbiased and objective.
  • Don’t post promotional content unless you’re using your Business Owners Account.
  • Make sure your contributions are relevant and appropriate for the Yelp community.
  • Don’t publicize other people’s private information.
  • Don’t steal intellectual property.
  • Never demand payment from a business, unless it’s for a refund.

Yelp doesn’t trust the IP address the review came from

An IP address is like the internet version of a “home address;” it’s a loose way of finding where your device is located.

Yelp doesn’t trust an IP address when it’s the source of lots of reviews. Such IP addresses are usually sources of bot farms and fake reviews. Yelp might also distrust IP addresses that are too far from your business, which is also a symptom of fake reviews.

For example, let’s say there’s business based in Atlanta. Yelp knows the IP addresses located in Atlanta. But then Yelp sees 100 reviews originating from an IP address in Bangladesh, and they’re all reviewing that Atlanta business positively. Naturally, Yelp smells something fishy and filters the reviews.

The review came as part of a big burst of reviews

If your business suddenly receives a big spike in reviews all at once, it can either look like you paid for a bunch of fake reviews or your competitor paid to have you review bombed. Either way, big waves of reviews can trigger spam detection algorithms.

So there are a lot of reasons why a genuine review might get filtered. The worst part is knowing that Yelp can change its filter algorithm at any time without warning and there’s nothing you can do about that. It’s possible you could wake up one day and find most of your Yelp business reviews gone, hidden by the filter. But that’s just one of the many dangers Yelp reviews pose to your business.

The good news is if your business earned a 5-star review that’s been filtered, you can help it get unfiltered.

The key to unfiltering good reviews is to help Yelp trust the reviewer and their review. That means connecting with the reviewer and reacting to their review.

Here are the steps you can take to help rescue Yelp reviews from the “not recommended” filter:

  1. Find the reviewers you want to help unfilter
  2. Engage them
  3. Tag their review of your business as useful, funny, or cool
  4. Ask the reviewer to complete their Yelp profile
  5. Offer a reward

Step 1) Find the reviewers you want to help unfilter

Log into Yelp and go to your business’ Yelp page. Scroll down toward the bottom and click the section titled “other reviews that are not currently recommended.”

You want to identify the reviewers who left positive reviews that got filtered out. Then you’ll want to decide which reviews you want to help unfilter.

Once you know which reviewer you want to help get unfiltered, go to Yelp’s Find Friends page and search on the reviewer’s name in the “Search Friends on Yelp” search box.

This will take you to Yelp’s Member Search page where you can continue searching for more reviewers.

If you’re having a hard time finding them, try searching by location.

Step 2) Engage them

That means you should follow them, compliment them, and add them as a friend. Users who get compliments, followers, and friends tend to be real people, not spammers, and Yelp knows that.

You can also message them thanking them for their review (and maybe encouraging them to come again for repeat business!). If you send them a message, make sure to ask them a question. When Yelp sees a user receiving and sending messages, that gives Yelp a lot of confidence the user is an actual human being engaging with other humans.

Step 3) Tag their review of your business as useful, funny, or cool

While you’re on their profile, click “Reviews” on the left to see the reviews they’ve written. Then find their review of your business. Tag it as “useful,” “funny,” or “cool.”

When you engage with their review, it shows Yelp that the review is authentic and helpful to Yelpers. This goes a long way in helping Yelp trust the review and unfilter it.

Step 4) Ask the reviewer to complete their Yelp profile

Including their profile picture, description, and connection to Facebook. You can also advise them to review other businesses (both positively and negatively) to help them seem like active, engaged users with many reviews.

It might feel selfish to ask them to complete their profile for you, but think about it from their perspective. They spent time and effort writing their review, but Yelp hid their review as if it was spam. How rude! By helping them get unfiltered, you’re helping them get their reviews seen and helping gain influence on Yelp. That’s a win for them.

Step 5) Offer a reward

If they go to all this trouble for you, you should make it worth their while. The reward could be a discount, a Buy-One-Get-One, or maybe just an Amazon gift card. Offer whatever seems appropriate.

Just be clear NOT to promise a reward for writing a review, which is illegal under FTC regulations. But you can reward them after they’ve already given a review, as long as there was no expectation of a gift in advance. And of course, you can reward them for completing their profile—there’s nothing illegal about that.

You can never guarantee that a review won’t be filtered, but you can help minimize the chance of it being filtered. The key is to help Yelp trust the review before it gets filtered (usually 1-2 days after posting). Here are several steps to helping reviews avoid being “not recommended:”

  • Be specific when asking for reviews
  • Don’t ask for reviews all at once
  • Don’t use your own device to submit Yelp reviews
  • Monitor your Yelp business review page frequently
  • Engage with positive reviews
  • Engage with reviewers (both positive and negative!)

Be specific when asking for reviews

Yelp doesn’t trust reviews that look too short, vague, positive, or negative. So if you ask customers for reviews, ask them in a way that encourages them to write medium-length posts with enough specificity that won’t sound overly positive.

Also, encourage customers to post photos. Yelp loves photos because they’re difficult to fake.

Just don’t be pushy when asking for reviews. That’ll backfire. (And then you’ll wish the review was “not recommended”)

Don’t ask for reviews all at once

If you’re asking customers for reviews, don’t ask lots of customers all at once. Big waves of reviews can trigger Yelp’s spam detection algorithm and end up “not recommending” the reviews.

Don’t use your own device to submit Yelp reviews

It might be tempting to have a tablet where people can submit Yelp reviews. Unfortunately, when Yelp sees lots of reviews coming from the same IP address, Yelp might assume you’re violating their “Don’t Ask” policy. That means lots of “not recommended” Yelp reviews..

Monitor your Yelp business review page frequently

You should be monitoring your Yelp business review page on a frequent basis so you can see when new reviews come in and when your rating changes. If that sounds like too big a time commitment for you, you could always sign up for a free review monitoring service.

Engage with positive reviews

When you see new positive reviews, make sure to mark them as funny, cool, or useful. This helps Yelp trust that the review is authentic and helpful to users, which reduces the chance of Yelp “not recommending” the review.

Engage with reviewers (both positive and negative!)

When you see positive reviews, make sure to connect with the reviewer. That means following them, complimenting them, and adding them as a friend.

You can also send them a message thanking for their review (and maybe encouraging them to come again for repeat business!). If you message them, make sure to include a question they’ll probably respond to. When users send and receive messages, it makes them look more authentic to Yelp.

When you see new negative reviews, make sure to message the reviewer asking for feedback. Negative reviewers can sometimes offer the most constructive feedback, and it’s very satisfying when you turn negative reviewers into positive ones!

However, if there’s an egregiously bad review, just know there are ways to remove a negative Yelp review that’s hurting your business.

All the above techniques will help you reduce the risk of reviews being “not recommended.” Most reviews are up for 1-2 days before being filtered. So being proactive and engaging them early and often can help prevent many reviews (and reviewers) from being unfairly filtered.

But the fact is that Yelp’s still going to filter out some genuine 5-star reviews. And the only way to win in the long-term is to improve your overall Yelp rating.

How to improve your overall Yelp rating

No matter what you do, Yelp is still going to not recommend reviews it considers spam—whether or not they really are. Even if there was a way past Yelp’s filter, Yelp is liable to change its filter algorithm at any time without warning.

So what can you do about it? Get as many 5-star reviews as you can.

Yes, it seems obvious. But in the long-term, negative reviews need to be drowned out with good ones, and you always need to keep your reviews up-to-date. So you need to get as many 5-star reviews as frequently as possible.

And how are you supposed to do that? Here’s how you can get more Yelp reviews with 5 stars that don’t get filtered.

In short, you need to earn your customer’s trust, then ask them for a review, follow up with customers who don’t respond, and ask for reviews as frequently as possible. Here’s how.

Earn your customer’s trust before asking them for a review

The first step to earning 5-star reviews is helping your customer as much as possible. Yes, that seems obvious, but you need to do everything in your power to serve them the best experience possible before asking for a review (not after!). If you’ve done a good job, they’re much more likely to give 4 or 5 stars.

Once you’ve done everything possible to help your customer fix their problems, then ask them how they would rate your business on a 5-star scale.

Just don’t ask in person, because they’re liable to be polite and tell you what you want to hear. Ask via text, email, or whatever’s appropriate.

If they say they’d rate you 4 or 5 stars, encourage them to write a review on Yelp.

If they say 3 stars or fewer, ask them for feedback. Negative reviewers can be the best sources of constructive feedback, and sometimes you can turn negative reviewers into really positive ones.

Follow up with customers who don’t respond

When you ask customers how they’d rate your business, most won’t respond. That’s natural. So it’s good to follow up with them.

The longer you wait, the more likely they are to forget your business and the less willing they are to write a review. We’ve found that businesses that follow up 2-3 times often get twice as many reviews. So don’t be afraid to follow up early and often.

If you’re using email, try waiting 3-7 days between emails. If you’re texting them, don’t follow up sooner than 7 days or you’ll risk upsetting most customers.

Request reviews frequently

Don’t wait until the end of the month to ask all your customers for reviews. There are several reasons for this.

First, if you get a bunch of reviews all at once, it might trigger Yelp’s spam detection algorithm, and many of those reviews might end up filtered.

Second, ask customers for reviews earlier rather than later. The longer you wait, the more they forget you, and the less willing they are to write a review.

Third, prospective customers looking at your Yelp rating want to see that your reviews are fresh and up-to-date. So it’s important to keep your reviews recent. That’s why you should request reviews frequently. That means weekly or even daily, not monthly.

Automate your review process

Now you might be thinking this all sounds like a lot of time and effort. And you’d be right. That’s why it’s important to automate as much of your review marketing as possible so you can spend your valuable time doing what matters: serving your customers.

Rising Star Reviews can help you pre-screen, request reviews, and follow up with customers on a regular basis. More importantly, we can help you increase your online review ratings, which helps you attract more customers and raise your prices. Check out our free 14-day trial.